The raging attacks on Plateau State communities took a frightening dimension last Friday when a group of bandits, otherwise called terrorists, invaded the community where the Plateau State University is located in the Bokkos Local Government Area of the state and unleashed mayhem on students.

The marauders had earlier attacked a community in Mangu Local Government Area, where about 15 people, mostly women, were killed in a barbaric manner. Underage children were also killed.

Sources say the two attacks took place simultaneously, but another account has it that the terrorists left for Bokkos after they unleashed terror on the people of Mangu.

A source close to the local government told the Nigerian Tribune that the marauders invaded Bokkos in the early hours of Friday, precisely at about 4:20 am and went on a shooting spree for some minutes to announce their arrival. They overpowered the vigilantes and hunters who made efforts to wade off the attack.

The source further stated that the attackers succeeded in killing five natives and destroyed quite a lot of properties before they bolted away, only to return after a few hours to attack an off-campus hotel close to the university.

She pointed out that the off-campus hostel was under siege for more than an hour with sporadic shootings while students, both female and male, ran helter-skelter for their lives. She added that many students sustained various degrees of injuries while trying to escape.

A 400-level student at the university, Ibrahim Mohammed, said the incident occurred at the student hostel, which is outside the university premises, adding that in the process of the attack, a 200-level Computer Science student was shot dead in her room.

“That night, we heard a lot of gunshots. We saw one of our students dead on the ground and the body was taken to the school premises for everyone to see. While they were carrying the dead bodies around the school, some of the students got angry and started destroying the university properties.

“When the military came, the students started shouting that they don’t want them within the school premises. They were annoyed because the military was nowhere to be found when a female student was killed early that day.

“They, however, chased the military to Maikatako. But on their way back, they met the Fulani where another confrontation ensued and, in the process, another student was killed. They later invaded the university campus, but the military later returned to chase them away.

“The university is not fenced at the back. There have been series of incidents where hoodlums came into the female hostel to rape them, apart from the rampant cases of kidnapping. The state government needs to come to our aid. The issue of insecurity is becoming too rampant.”

Piqued by the unfavourable development, the university authority, in a statement signed by its registrar, F. Ayube, strongly condemned the incident and consequently declared two days of mourning over the deaths of the students.

“Unfortunately, the enemies of the university and the state launched a dastardly attack, leading to the loss of our dear student. The vice-chancellor and the entire management convey their condolences to the family of the deceased, the student body and the university community.

“The university authority has, therefore, declared a two-day mourning period on Friday, April 19 and Saturday, April 20, 2024, and rescheduled all the examinations slated for the period.”

A cross-section of other students wants the authority of the university and the visitor to the university, Governor Caleb Muftwang, to address the issue of insecurity in the local government and put in place security arrangements that would guarantee the safety of lives and properties, especially in the university community and its environs.

They equally complained that the university campus is porous and can be accessed from many angles. They tasked the state government with blocking all the illegal entry routes and constructing perimeter fencing.

But contrary to the earlier position that only one student died, the vice-chancellor of the university, Professor Shedrack Gaya Best, said at the end of a review meeting held by the management, the university lost two students in the incident. Both of them were shot off-campus. Four others had bullet wounds, three of which were treated and discharged, while one is still being treated in the hospital.

According to Professor Best, the activities of marauders around the university campus and communities have been a recurring problem that the university is poised to address, adding that series of confidence-building meetings are being arranged with stakeholders, which will include the host communities, staff, students and security operatives.

He described the killing of the students as very unfortunate and painful. He thanked Governor Mutfwang for his proactiveness in working with the General Officer Commanding of the 3 Armoured Division, the Commissioner of Police and other security operatives to bring the incident under control.

Professor Best, while commiserating with the parents of the deceased and injured students, appealed for calm and decorum as the university authority, state government and security operatives are working hard to fish out those responsible for the recent attack.

The vice-chancellor, in a statement signed by the university’s Public Relations Officer, John Agams, advised the students to be more careful in conducting themselves to avoid being victims of similar incidences and to be protective of university property and facilities.

He said the state government has given approval for the re-building of broken-down portions of the university perimeter fence by herders who take pleasure in grazing within the university environment, thus resulting in altercations with both students and security operatives.

Professor Best also used the opportunity to appeal to leaders of herders to call their members to order in order to forestall incessant security breaches.

Though the local government where the university is situated has been in crisis for quite some time, those who have been observing the trend of attacks posited that the university deserved special security attention and ever-ready security men on the ground to respond whenever the need arose.

A member of a vigilante group, Garba Waziri, said the recent attack was not the first attempt on the university by the marauders, adding that students, especially those living in the neighbouring communities, were under constant fear of attacks.

“There are several instances where we have to come to the aid of these students, especially those living off campus. They are prone to attacks. There are several reported cases of rape and kidnapping. So, both the university authority and the state government have to wade in to address the developmental challenges facing the university,” he said.

A lecturer who craved anonymity said, “As long as the insecurity in the host community is not tamed and addressed squarely, the university will always be prone to attack by these elements. Therefore, both the state and Federal Government need to take drastic action to arrest attacks on communities in the local government and other parts of the state.”

Speaking on the incident, the senator representing Plateau Central of Plateau State, Senator Diket Plang, said the attack on the local government has become more worrisome now that students have become the target of the marauders.

He said the attack on the university deserved special attention because the university, as a citadel of learning, requires a serene and placid atmosphere to flourish. He added that anything that might want to impair its smooth running must be resisted.

While condemning the attack, Governor Mutfwang stressed the importance of collaboration among the university management, students, community leaders and security agencies for enhanced security and the safety of everyone in the area.

The governor, who reassured citizens, particularly students of the government’s commitment to safeguarding lives and property, urged them to remain composed in the face of the tragedy, as the government is determined to apprehend and prosecute those responsible for the heinous acts.

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